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I’m glad the House Judiciary Committee called their hearing today. It’s important we inspect these companies and their business practices – and ensure that they aren’t unfairly disadvantaging competition and harming consumers.
It wasn’t too long ago that some of these companies weren’t even willing to show up in front of Congress and face these important questions.
As I’ve come to often say, ‘data is the new oil.’ But for the companies that have successfully built business models to collect it, it’s even better than oil: these companies capture not just our data but our attention, commerce, and social interactions.
Two years ago I released a set of proposals aimed at bringing greater transparency, accountability, competition, and fairness to the digital economy – and reining in the Wild West era of unregulated tech.
In many cases, this dominance is predicated on a range of deceptive and unfair business practices that trick users into handing over their personal data, or consenting to unfair terms of service.
The dominance also depends on information asymmetry – platforms today are collecting copious amounts of data on consumers, in ways that consumers are totally unwitting to. Part of comprehensive reform in this area involves passing data protection laws.
We need to know what data companies are collecting, what they’re doing with it, how they’re profiting from it, and also have a better understanding of what it’s worth so we can assess whether consumers are getting a fair deal.
We often hear that U.S. providers serve as counterweights to Chinese platforms. I’m not sure that holds up when we see companies like Google willing to build censorship tools to appease the PRC or share data with Chinese apps.
Now, I’m not really in the ‘Break Them Up’ crowd – although that’s always an option. I am, however, very interested in adopting innovative solutions that inject competition into these markets and rebalance the playing field in favor of consumers.
A big part of that involves promoting competition in these markets by providing control, choice, and flexibility for users. The history of U.S. communications law offers many important lessons we can draw from in crafting new frameworks for tech platforms.
And part of that means not falling for the red herring that this is really about ‘anti-conservative bias’ as President Trump and his allies would have you believe.
Folks, this isn’t about conservative vs. liberal or Democrat vs. Republican. It’s about the future vs. the past, and it’s time Congress and the President stepped up to deal with the real challenges we face.
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